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The Enchanting Story Behind Dublin Characters: Dancing Mary

By fiodhna_hm

December 20, 2016 at 12:10am


I'm in love with the 'characters' that all cities & villages have. Every area has someone who is well-recognised amongst its inhabitants. Most of these folk are harmless, in a world of their own and often paint smiles on the people around them. I am particularly obsessed with four, Dublin-based characters that span the past 100 years.

Over the next month, I'll be writing about them, one at a time, in the lead-up to an exhibition I'm hosting on March 12th which is dedicated to these magical people. In a bid to keep their spirit alive, I've rounded-up ten, Dublin-based artists & writers to become creatively inspired by 'Dancing Mary', 'Maggie', 'Bang Bang' & 'Johnny Forty Coats'. The pieces (mostly framed prints) will be sold in A Nowhere Man on the night of the exhibition. 50% of the funds made will go to the Dublin Simon Community; the other 50% will go to the artist. It's all about celebrating what makes Dublin special and giving back to it at the same time.


'Dancing Mary' by Colm Mac Athlaoich (Etching)

First up (and probably my favourite) is Mary Dunne; AKA 'Dancing Mary', who was from Dun Laoghaire. She danced on O'Connell street in the 80s and 90s. She's remembered for her colourful clothing and stellar dance moves. She wore pleated, pastel skirts that'd swirl and swish with every twirl, smile and wave at passers by, gave advice to people and had the banter with the street traders. Dublin City Council's Christy Burke said she was "glamorous and always elegantly dressed."


Naturally, this woman gained Facebook fame in the form of a Public Figure page which boasts over 24,000 fans. Irish Central compliled some personal memories that people shared on the fan page:

Laura O Sullivan

"I remember her; her son collected her every day at about 3:30pm. I saw her every morning!"

Catherine Patricia Moran

"It's amazing to see how many lives she touched without knowing it. So, maybe in a strange way, she did the job she was supposed to do!"

Sarah Fanning

"God love her, hail, rain or shine she was on that street; she was the most eccentric person in Dublin!"


'O'Connell Street' by Fuschia MacAree (print)

However, she wasn't always a dancer. In the early 50s, when she moved to Dublin, she opened her own hair salon. And in the mid 50s, she took part in the World Hairdressing Championships in Vienna. In 1968, she, her husband and their six children (Michael, Kathleen, Marie, William, Pascal & Patrick) moved to Geneva for four years due to a job Mary's husband had to do.

I remember seeing Dancing Mary once; I was on the 16A, driving by the Anna Livia statue, and she popped out; dancing away. My neck nearly broke trying to keep my eyes fixed on her while the bus turned.

If you'd like to find out some more details on the exhibition and the artists involved be sure to click attending here.


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